I’ve enjoyed a few great first months here at Rant Sports, and I’m thankful for every second that I have been able to do this. It’s been more than a dream come true. When I first introduced myself, I made it abundantly clear that I am a die-hard Florida State Seminoles fan, and have been since the age of three. I’ve relished the opportunity to cover the ‘Noles for everyone, as well as the rest of the ACC.
However, there’s also another collegiate football program that holds a special place in my heart, and always will. That love was tested over the better part of the last year and a half, yet it still holds strong. That affection is for the Penn State Nittany Lions football program.
Growing up here in Scranton, Pennsylvania I was the outcast, so to speak. While everyone let their undying love for former PSU head coach Joe Paterno flow out of their mouth like a waterfall, I would always have fun poking back with reasons why Bobby Bowden was better. It was a never-ending squabble, which usually led to me being ganged up on due to the lopsided numbers game. Yet, looking back, it was fun and I eventually grew old enough where I could differentiate my love for the two programs when the time was right.
If anything, my Penn State allegiance stems from my grandfather–whom I’ve shared a very close bond with my whole life–setting me in front of the television every fall Saturday afternoon and giving me his weekly Nittany Lion history lesson, that he probably didn’t assume I was paying attention to at all. What he didn’t realize was that I was listening to every word he was saying and it became a part of me.
Living in such close proximity to the Penn State campus, I’ve taken the two-hour drive down to Beaver Stadium so many times in my life that I can’t even keep count anymore. The State College, Pennsylvania atmosphere is truly like no other. It’s a peaceful area with respectful residents, a breathtaking collegiate campus, and just a place rooted in deep football tradition.
That was why it broke my heart to see the Jerry Sandusky saga unfold to such an undeserving place.
But unlike most stories, this isn’t about Jerry Sandusky. It’s not about anyone in the Paterno family. It’s not about Mike McQueary even. This is about this Penn State football program and where it sits right now.
I have been the biggest advocate of this philosophy from the day spring practice started last season. While people were either vehemently trying to protect the honor of Joe Paterno or bad-mouth other parties involved, I was the one trying to focus everyone’s attention on where the program was going moving forward.
And, so far, I am more than satisfied with the direction.
Head coach Bill O’ Brien has more than won over this writer’s trust. With harsh pressure already sitting on the shoulders of JoePa’s successor, he began the year 0-2 and under the scrutiny of the entire PSU world. Yet, he never quit and led his squad to a surprising 8-4 record. This led to a small flirtation with the NFL this offseason, which O’ Brien also shunned. Citing his commitment to rebuild the Penn State program, he had firmly won over myself and any other fan who may have been on the fence about him. The highly-annoying question of “Has Penn State found the RIGHT guy?” was answered with a firm–Yes!
Now, aside from a few transfers, last year’s squad was stacked with holdovers from the Paterno-Era which may have made the 8-4 record not as surprising as people may think. Would PSU be able to get kids to come to their school after all that had happened?
I don’t know, why don’t you go ask top-rated 2013 QB prospect Christian Hackenberg?
The fact is, going into this season, I am content as a fan of the Penn State product and where the program sits right now. The NCAA basically tried to put the entire area of Happy Valley on life-support and, so far, don’t seem as if they were successful.
And, if I need a reminder of how well the program is doing at the moment, I’ll just lift my head up next Saturday while I’m taking in the annual Blue-White Game and look around Beaver Stadium at the 60,000-plus taking the game in with me.